Envoy: SHTA does not match Iran’s humanitarian needs

Iran’s Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations Majid Takht Ravanchi described US’ unilateral sanctions as the enemy’s fifth column, saying Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) does not match Iran’s humanitarian needs.

Takht Ravanchi made the remarks addressing the International Webinar on “Sanctioned Countries Speak: U.S. Sanctions and COVID-19, A Global Threat”.

“On 27 February 2020, the U.S. Treasury finalized with much fanfare “The Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement” (SHTA) allowing certain humanitarian transactions with Iran. However, this narrow channel does not match Iran’s humanitarian needs in the current situation,” Iranian diplomat said.

Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) is a payment mechanism aimed at enabling the basic goods to be delivered to Iran.

The aim of the Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement (SHTA) is to ensure that exporters and trading companies in the food, pharmaceutical, and medical sectors based in Switzerland have a secure payment channel with a Swiss bank through which payments for their exports to Iran are guaranteed. In this way, Switzerland is helping to supply the Iranian population with agricultural commodities, food, medicines, and medical equipment. This is in keeping with Switzerland’s humanitarian tradition.

The full text of Takht Ravanchi’s speech is as follows:

In the Name of God, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful,

Dear Moderator,

Distinguished participants,

Ladies and Gentleman,

It is indeed a pleasure to address this important international webinar which is organized by altruist people whom I wholeheartedly thank for their very valuable campaign to enhance the awareness of world public opinion on the need to fight COVID-19 without any hindrance.

Representing a country whose people have seriously suffered as a result of over four decades of inhumane sanctions, today, I will focus on the impacts of the current US sanctions on Iran particularly our capacity to fight COVID-19 and to address its vast socioeconomic consequences.

In our common fight against COVID-19, all of humanity is on the same front, and to succeed quickly and sustainably, we must ensure that no community or nation is left alone and behind.

Therefore, any act restricting the ability of nations to tackle this crisis would help the disease spread like wildfire, consequently weakening the global fight against the pandemic.

A clear example in this regard is the continued application of unilateral sanctions, which undermine our front from within in favor of the disease and function exactly like the enemy’s “fifth column”.

Now, let me briefly explain how sanctions inhibit Iran’s ability to fight COVID-19.

While Iran is experiencing one of the worst outbreaks of the Coronavirus, the US sanctions – which, according to its officials are the most extensive sanctions ever imposed on a country -- are drastically hindering Iran's efforts to treat patients and effectively prevent the spread of the virus.

This is despite the fact that Iran’s medical facilities, doctors, and nurses are among the very finest in the world, and the professional nature of our national efforts to suppress COVID-19 is highly acknowledged by the WHO.

To escape from the disgrace of the illegal and immoral nature of sanctions, the US officials continue to claim that humanitarian and medical needs are exempt from sanctions, but, they are not.

On 27 February 2020, the US Treasury finalized with much fanfare “The Swiss Humanitarian Trade Arrangement” (SHTA) allowing certain humanitarian transactions with Iran. However, this narrow channel does not match Iran’s humanitarian needs in the current situation.

At the same time, the United States has forced SHTA to pursue a very tight and tough procedure, under pretexts like “ensuring the upmost transparency” or “enhanced due diligence” -- requiring companies to provide extensive information to the Treasury Department every month on the Iranian beneficiaries of the goods, the Iranian companies’ business relationships and financial details and alike -- thus making it practically very difficult for companies to trade with Iran.

Additionally, the almost impossible or cumbersome nature of transferring Iran’s reserves blocked outside the country to the designated Swiss bank, not only does not allow the SHTA to function properly now but may actually render it redundant in a matter of few months.

Likewise, recently several companies that supply the medicine and medical equipment required to fight the Coronavirus have stopped shipping to Iran because the current U.S. sanction’s regime makes the shipping of such items to Iran almost impossible.

Moreover, the only message of the U.S.’ additional new sanctions, imposed in the midst of the outbreak, is that companies must avoid doing any business with Iran, even if their work is humanitarian in nature.

In short, the US sanction’s regime, including its relevant penalties, is extremely broad and has created a compliance minefield for the legal trade with Iran and consequently, medical suppliers and relief organizations simply steer clear of doing business in Iran in the fear of accidentally getting caught up in the U.S. sanctions’ web.

From the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, we have received valuable emergency aid from some countries as well as the WHO and certain humanitarian organizations.

Nevertheless, for a vast country like Iran with a population of nearly 83 million, which is among the worst impacted countries by COVID-19, such emergency aid is not the panacea.

Accordingly, due to the vast impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on almost all aspects of life in the affected societies, neither Iran nor any other country can rely only on emergency aids.

Hence, the immediate removal of all sanctions on banking, insurance, transportation, medical, industry, energy, exports, imports and alike is a must as it would enable the targeted countries to use, freely and fully, their own resources to effectively suppress the pandemic and address its short and long terms impacts.

This is what the international community is calling for, the living example of which is this webinar as well as other similar efforts of civil society in different corners of the world.

As you might be well aware, such strong and repeated calls have recently been made also by the United Nations Secretary-General, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, a number of UN human rights rapporteurs, some other international dignitaries as well as many former and current statesmen and stateswomen, parliamentarians including in the U.S., religious leaders and academia.

Likewise, at the world stage, such important political groupings like the Group of 77 and China with more than 130 Member States as well as 120 Member States of the Non-Aligned Movement, including in its recent virtual summit on COVID-19, have joined the international calls for the removal of sanctions.

To conclude, I would like to once again thank the organizers of this webinar and recognize the value of your efforts. Indeed, nothing is more humanistic than confronting such immoral and inhumane policies like weaponizing medicine and food in these trying times.

I thank you for your kind attention.

News Code 191855

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